News In Brief

Inquiries into former President Clinton's pardon of indicted financier Marc Rich - accused of tax evasion, fraud, and participation in illegal oil deals with Iran - launched into Phase 2 with a hearing in the Senate. Meanwhile, the House Government Reform Committee subpoenaed bank records of Rich's ex-wife, who has contributed more than $1 million to the Democratic Party. Rich, has been living in Switzerland since shortly before his indictment in 1983.

Civilian guests aboard the submarine USS Greeneville, including two who were seated at the controls, may have distracted the crew during a practice rapid ascent when it collided with and capsized a Japanese fishing vessel off the Hawaiian coast, Navy officials said. They said the Navy is considering an inquiry that could lead to charges against the captain or crew members. The civilians were aboard the Greeneville as part of a promotional program.

The chiefs ofABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox TV went before a House committee hearing to account for their networks' mistakes in reporting election returns last Nov. 7. Also testifying were representatives of the Associated Press and Voter News Service (VNS), a network-wire service consortium that conducts exit polling and tallies actual votes. Reports commissioned individually by the networks found flaws in the vote-counting methods used by VNS. The executives were expected to ask Congress to establish a uniform poll-closing time for the nation.

Dozens of the wealthiest Americans signed a petition that seeks to thwart President Bush's proposal to phase out the estate tax by 2009. Among those arguing that a repeal on estate taxes would hurt working-class families and harm charities that benefit from tax-induced donations were billionaire investor George Soros and the father of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. The petition is to be printed in major newspapers beginning with The New York Times Sunday. Reportedly, only 2 percent of the estates of Americans who die each year are subject to the tax, which is levied on a person's net worth exceeding $675,000.

Seat-belt use is at an all-time high, although it varies by region, state law, and vehicle type, a report prepared for the Transportation Department said. Nationwide, 71.3 percent of Americans wore seat belts in 2000 - continuing a steady increase since 1995, when only 58 percent used them, the report said. The highest rate of seat-belt users, 80 percent, was reported in the West, while the Northeast ranked lowest with 67 percent wearing seat belts.

Fewer people, especially minorities and children, went unaccounted for in the 2000 census than in the last previous count, a preliminary review by the bureau found. The Census Bureau must decide by early March whether the 2000 count needs adjustment based on a controversial statistical method known as "sampling." Early estimates put the net undercount between .96 percent to 1.4 percent of all Americans, down from 1.6 percent in 1990.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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